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I have always been a man of principles.”
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I am one who has been ostracized by corrupt, stupid and selfish people, in the name of politics and religion. I have suffered pain and privation; sacrificed my self-esteem; and rejected a place in the ministry.
Indeed, it was my family and I who volunteered for the first time in India to court imprisonment for the sake of the freedom we cherish so dearly today.
I have supported whichever political party has done good to the society to which I belong and opposed those that have done ill. I have not supported any party merely because it is in power.
I serve only because I wish that our people (Dravidians) and society should progress like the people of other lands. In the best interest of society, therefore, I support those capable of doing good to our people, and those administrators who work for our social betterment.
When a peace-conference was convened for the suspension of the Civil Disobedience Movement, Sankaran Nair requested Gandhiji to stop picketing toddy shops and talk peace. Afterwards, Gandhiji remarked: “Stopping the picketing of toddy shops is not in my hands. It is in the hands of E.V. Ramaswamy’s wife and sister in Tamil Nadu”. Thus my family and I courted imprisonment for the sake of Gandhiji’s principles.
I am under no necessity to permanently support anyone for gaining selfish ends. I see no wrong at all in supporting that person who does good to us, who strives for the removal of our social degradation even if he is a foreigner.
I have no (political) heirs. My principles and ideas are my heirs. Heirs should evolve on their own.
Even if I were to lead a life in hell, I would deem it better than the earthly one, if I were regarded there as a human being.
Even if I were to live in a place where I would have to experience much worse sufferings than those of a hellish life, I would consider it a happier life than this mean, caste-ridden existence, if only I were respected as a man there.
Gandhiji said: “If the Untouchables (lowest caste people) are prevented from drawing water from a well, let separate well be dug for them; if they are not allowed into the temple, let separate temples be built for them”. I said then: “If no amends are made for the abject humiliation that they cannot draw water from a well, let them there die of thirst. That they must be freed from this degradation is more important than the provision of water to save their lives.”
For how long are we still to remain ‘Sudras’ (Sons of prostitutes or concubines) and allow our progeny also to be ‘Sudras’, in this world? Should we not do something to attain human dignity, devoid of our ills, atleast in this generation, during this age of science and scientific freedom? Is there a nobler deed than this for us? It is for this reason that I have dedicated the whole of my life for this cause; and not out of any perversity or spite.
Some say that eradication of caste is communalism and hatred for the high-castes. Are we communalists? Have we ever harmed a single Brahmin or set fire to a Brahmin locality? An appeal for the abolition of caste is not to be considered class-hatred.
In our country, those that endeavour class to put an end to the ills of caste are like those that administer medicine for malaria; they cannot prevent the incidence of the disease in others. But I am like a doctor who prevents it by destroying the malaria causing mosquitoes in the stagnant waters.
The oppressed and backward people-toilers, coolies, poor men-who are treated like animals, are an eye-sore to me. This sorry sight can be removed only by their being made equal among men.
Though I am more than sixty years of age, my feelings are not as old, only because of my contact with the young. To do nothing is something my mind is never inclined to. Rest and boredom are suicide to me.
People all over the world should unite. They should have an existence that does no harm to other beings. Means must be found for a peaceful life, free from envy, anxiety, deceit, hatred and sorrow. This is my cherished wish.
I am aware that my capacity is limited. But my love for humanity is boundless. That is why I am impelled to action and utterance beyond my position and capacity.
You conduct yourselves according to what you deem proper, after an inquiry aided by reason. This is what I call reform.
Do not think I am selfless. I am a very avaricious person. My desire and selfishness are boundless;
I consider the welfare of the Dravidian society as my own welfare; and I toil solely for that ‘Selfishness’
Justice, and nothing else, is my justification.
All must die ultimately. Should one waste this life for the sake of dying? It is enough if I have bare means of sustenance; I shall use everything else for others.
Are my ideas admired or rejected? Are they considered lofty or low? I do not bother. My life’s aim is that my views, however bitter they are to others, should only express truth.
From my tenth year onwards, (as far as I can remember), I have been an atheist. I have no faith in caste or rituals. In matters of public conduct, I am aware that others should not be pained or troubled; apart from this, I have little regard for proper conduct. Even though I am covetous of money and materials, I have earned them only through my resourcefulness and not by pecuniary dishonesty or by betrayal of trust.
I have never attempted to cheat anyone, even in the smallest matter. Even though I may have told lies in business deals, I have not told lies in pubic-life, or consciously expressed opposing views.
Why should a person like me carry enmity or ill-will to a particular community? I am one who ardently wishes to bring our land and society on a par with the character and culture of England. I consider, rightly or wrongly, that the Brahmin community is a stumbling block to this.
Should not the Brahmins then demonstrate that such is not the case? In fact, if only I had the support of the Brahmins, I would have found it possible to a large extent to bring about the advancement of our country.
I am one who lives just to see that the whole world is suffused with atheistic rationality.
My only goal is the welfare of the people.
I am no passionate seeker after power. Only, I have a fierce social consciousness. For the sake of the welfare of society, I am prepared in the days to come to give up anything or do anything.
I devote myself to service only for the reason that our people should gain in knowledge and live on a par with the peoples of the world.
With me, there is never anything like ‘my money’. As I had endowed all my money and property in the name of the SELF-RESPECT Movement when
I entered public service, I do everything, even eating, from out of the funds of the Movement. It is your money, and not mine at all, that I donated to a College, and a Hospital. After finding out what was appropriate for the public good, I spent out of the Movement’s General Fund.
If I know that any individual is devoted to Tamil,
I shall certainly become a slave to him. If he is cultured, I shall indeed be his bosom-friend. Otherwise, I would look upon him as a non-entity.
I, E.V. Ramaswamy, have taken upon myself the task of reforming Dravidian society so that it shall be comparable to other societies of the world, in esteem and enlightenment, and I am solely devoted to that service.
Whether I am competent to do that service or not,
I have taken the task upon myself because no one else in the country has come forward to do so.
Because I configure plans and principles on the basis of reason and because I have no other attachments, I consider myself qualified to do that service. For one who does social service, this will do, I believe.
Even as a pipe must needs to be played, and a drum beaten, I must perforce talk or lecture, as long as I have a throat and a voice.
Our people seem to take pride in cherishing antiquity. But I am one who detests this craze for tradition. This is why I am hated by many. But I am confident that those who know will soon come to my side.
I consider myself a rationalist. I am not averse to anything that is in tune with reason and I am not in agreement with anything that is irrational. This sums up my attitude.
I believe that conducting oneself properly and adhering to honesty in everything without concealing truth, gives one a unique strength.
I do not cite any precedent to explain my principles and utterances. The effort of those that run after what others have said does not accord with good sense. I may point out that my ideas are supported by others, but I should not indicate that such persons have said thus and thus, and therefore I also say, after them.
Rationalist that I am, I have no attachment whatsoever to god, religion, literature or language. I shall talk only of that which is acceptable to intelligence; that which does good to people, and that which enlightens them.
Some even asked me: ‘You are a Kannadia; how can you be a leader of Tamils? I countered: ‘Dear fellow! No Tamil has qualified himself to lead! This is because one Tamil does by no means tolerate the rise of another Tamil to a position of leadership’.
I am aware that I am friendly with people owing only to a Movement, and not because of other worldly ties. I say so because, in many areas, by expressing opposing views, I swim against the current of popular opinion. This is the fate of all those that conduct themselves thus.
My life is like a shorn-off tree. If a fruit-bearing tree, it must be protected from others throwing stones at it. But I do not think of so protecting my self. As I do not care for anything, I do not fear anyone; nor do I desire to gain favours from anyone.
“If the Untouchables (lowest caste people) are prevented from drawing water from a well, let separate well be dug for them; if they are not allowed into the temple, let separate temples be built for them”
As regards speech, some deliver it with an eye for elegance; some for ornateness; some others to make people laugh or to win their approbation; a few others speak just to exhibit their learning; and some to express their ideas. I belong to the last category.
Give a fair hearing and thought to all that I say. If it is acceptable to your intelligence, follow it accordingly; otherwise, reject it. I shall not compel to do what I say, by telling you that I am an incarnation of God, or that God speaks to you from within me, or that I am a leader.
“If no amends are made for the abject humiliation that they cannot draw water from a well, let them there die of thirst. That they must be freed from this degradation is more important than the provision of water to save their lives”
Even as a mother, bound by natural instincts, tends all her offspring, to give them an equal experience, so it is with me as regards my relationship with people. Also, as the same mother tries to feed her lean and weak child with more food than what she offers the rest of her children, to make him equal to them, so I show greater sympathy to the weak and the backward; and likewise I exhibit my feelings towards Brahmins and the other communities.
I am an ascetic. To an ascetic, an emperor is chaff, it is said. To me not only the emperor, but, so are God, scriptures, caste and politics; nay, I consider them the filtered essence of cant and hypocrisy.
Source: Collected Works of Periyar E.V.R
Published by The Periyar Self-Respect Propaganda Institution, Chennai.
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